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Turkey Tracks: Blowing My Nose in Style

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Turkey Tracks:  March 13, 2011

Blowing My Nose in Style

On January 19, 2011, I wrote a post called “Cutting the Waste Stream and Detoxing the Kitchen.”  One of my issues of the past few years has been how to cut back on the amount of paper we use.  My use of paper towels, napkins, and, now that I think about it, toilet paper, seemed/seems excessive.  So, I’ve been searching for ways to cut back. 

Paper Towels:  I’m happy to report that our paper towel use is practically nonexistent.  So nonexistent that I can’t remember when I used one last.  Putting a bowl of cheap white (so I can see stains) wash cloths on the kitchen counter is working beautifully.  They can be used to where I would have once used paper towels.  (I do not use them to wipe out the cast iron skillet, but more on that in a minute.)  They can also be used inside a bag of lettuce or anything going into the refrigerator than needs a bit of drying.  I could also use them to drain bacon slices, though I’ve mostly just put the cooked slices on a plate.  Once cooled, they reabsorb the fat, and meat fat does not make you fat or hurt your heart, contrary to the low-fat ideology of the past 30-40 years.  As for cleaning the skillet, we pour off extra fat for the dogs and chickens, or for us sometimes, like saving bacon fat or using the glorious fat from a beef or lamb roast on toast the next day–all traditional practices lost over the past 40 years.  A swishing with hot water in the sink takes out the residue in the skillet, and drying the pan with a bit of heat preserves its all-important coating.

I also bought two washcloths for each of our bathrooms, put them under the sink, and use them to spot clean the bathroom.  (Our cleaning woman already uses rags and washcloths to clean the house–she brings them with her.)  That’s working well, too. 

All the washcloths just get thrown into the laundry every week.  If some are dirtier or greasier than others, they go into the pile of dish cloths, etc., that might need either a bit of clorox (winter) or line bleaching (summer). 

Paper Napkins:  We’ve been using our cloth napkins at the dinner table–and reusing them until they are demonstrably dirty.  Growing up, we did not wash cloth table napkins every day.  One had a set place at the table and reused one’s  napkin.  Not doing so saves on water, soap, and energy as well as NOT using paper napkins.  But, for me, who for most of my life has had a chronically runny nose (driven I now realize mostly by food allergies), paper napkins were needed as kleenex just wasn’t strong or thick enough.  So, one day this winter, we had lunch with old Tufts friends of  John’s, Jack and Barbara Moore, of the schooner Surprise, and Jack pulled out a BIG, sturdy, handkerchief from his pants pocket.  It was one of those colored bandanas like we now use to decorate the necks of dogs.  When I said “YES!” and explained my search, he told me he bought them at Reny’s (our local version of a mixed-bag kind of store) for under $2 each.  John and I went that same day and got some.  John got a manly navy blue, and I got these:

    

They were a little stiff at first, but are now, after several washings, soft as butter.  And, I love them!  They’re so much nicer than paper napkins, and they are so much bigger and sturdier than any of the white handkerchiefs I could find online.

Toilet Paper:   Well this issue is tougher, as Colin Beaven discovered when he started his “No Impact Man” blog and the press became obsessed with the family’s toilet habits.  (Beaven’s blog resulted in a book and a documentary.)  To backtrack, Colin, his wife, and their young daughter attempted to erase or to balance  their energy use footprint for one year, though they lived in New York City.  Toilet paper requires a lot of energy to produce, process in sewage, etc.   And, Beaven points out:  “More than half the world believes that washing their nether regions is far more hygienic than using toilet paper, a practice largely confined to our Western culture.”   I wasn’t surprised to read Beaven’s  information as a few years back, my book club had read Mohja Kahf’s THE GIRL IN THE TANGERINE SCARF:  A NOVEL, wherein the Muslim/American female protagonist does a whole riff on how Muslims view Americans as walking around with and sleeping with dirty nether regions.  Think about it. 

I tried, here at home, to wash rather than to wipe after reading Beaven’s book.  It’s not hard as long as you’re  next to the sink where you can put warm water into a container stored by the toilet.  It’s a bit awkward from lack of practice, of course.  And a container that pours is better than one that doesn’t.  It’s impossible in a public restroom or in someone else’s home.  You do need a container and a drying washcloth or towel–not items one carries around or that friends’ bathrooms supply.  In any case, it is MUCH cleaner, so the half of the world that washes rather than wipes is right about the cleanliness aspect of this issue.

Anyway, I’m pleased with how we’ve been able to curtail our paper use.  It’s a step in a needed direction, a step that refuses to be part of the extraction economy.  And a reminder that sometimes those who live in different cultures or who lived “back in the day” might have better practices than we do.        

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